• End of Season Recovery while avoiding Detraining


    • What is detraining?
    • How long does it take to detrain?
    • Keys to a good recovery phase?

     Physiological changes that take years to acquire will start to fade after 2 weeks and quickly within 4 weeks of cessation of any training programme. Ouch!!!


    As the triathlon season draws to a close for most athletes and you start to reflect on your own performances from your 2016 season along with your objectives for 2017, you need to factor some well deserved downtime to recharge yourself mentally and physically. However, have you ever wondered how long it takes to “detrain” and lose the fitness gains you may have worked so hard to attain over the last 12 months plus, or how to recover while avoiding just this? For my athletes this phase is crucial so that their efforts from 2016 are not lost and can be built on in preparation for 2017 races, while still giving them the opportunity to recharge their “training mojo”.

    The Theory in a Nutshell

    Peak endurance performance can take several years of consistent training to achieve. The physiological changes include improvements in your cardiovascular function and in the delivery of oxygen rich blood and nutrients to your working muscles to produce force and movement, and then maintain the energy generation required to sustain the desired intensity of effort over the target time.

    So how long does it take to detrain?

    So consider this, physiological changes that take years to acquire will start to fade after 2 weeks and fade quickly within 4 weeks of cessation of any training programme. Ouch!!! The training adaptations take longer to acquire than they do to lose.

    This doesn’t mean you need to continually train the same way, with the same training volumes, just differently. This is so the engine you have worked so hard to develop is maintained in readiness for when you’re ready to commence your re-building campaign for next season. Performances don’t just happen, they take months and months to work toward and get right. So don’t expect to be hitting the same numbers at this point or in a few months, this is because your training needs to be different so you can start preparations to build again in the spring. Thereby building off the back of more strength and endurance built into the engine over the winter, along with improvements to any weaknesses you have addressed.

    4 Week Recovery Phase

    This is where your coach comes in, so here are my rules for an effective recovery phase before you start preparatory work again.

    Weeks 0-2

    • Take them off
    • Training only if you want to
    • If you want to train then do something different, go surfing, walk or aqua aerobics, you get my point!

    Weeks 3-4

    • Your training volume should be about 40-60% of your average during the last 12 months
    • Include some short sharp controlled efforts (if injury free ) with equal recovery in between
    • Train by feel and RPE, leave the Garmin and pace, watts and data munching in the locker
    • Train little and often; for example if your normal training volume is 6 hours, performed over 6 sessions, then I would advise ~ 6 x 30mins / week (mixing in a swim, strength session, mountain bike, trail runs etc).
    • Importantly any injuries need to be addressed fully and rehabilitated above all else, and may mean a longer recovery phase depending on the problem.

    The short sharp interval work is short enough to help you recharge but good enough to keep the cylinders of your engine tuned and ready to work. Athletes that keep the training going, as described above with a defined recovery phase will achieve a higher level of performance next season. Those that wait longer to get going may achieve the same levels of performance next year with a bit of luck.

    So recharge the training mojo, but keep things ticking over and the engine revving ready to slowly build toward your 2017 goals. Waiting until all the mince pies have gone is a bit too late…